General Bipin Rawat, India’s first chief of defence staff, his wife Madhulika Raje Singh Rawat, and 11 others died in an Indian Air Force chopper crash near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday afternoon, in one of the worst air accidents involving India’s top military brass, the IAF confirmed six hours after the crash.
Kritika and Tarini Rawat, the Rawats’ two daughters, outlive them.
Group Captain Varun Singh, the only survivor of the incident, is being treated at the Military Hospital in Wellington. On February 3, 2015, Rawat escaped a Cheetah chopper crash in Nagaland’s Dimapur. At the time, he was a lieutenant general.
“It has now been confirmed that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat, and 11 other personnel on board died in the terrible mishap,” the Indian Air Force said in a statement.
Officials said Brigadier LS Lidder, Rawat’s defence assistant, and Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, his staff officer, are among the dead. On board the Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter were fourteen persons, including the crew.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Gen Rawat and the other military forces soldiers who died served India with utmost diligence in a message sent shortly after the announcement.
“I am heartbroken at the helicopter disaster in Tamil Nadu, in which General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and other Armed Forces men perished. They did everything they could to help India. In a tweet, PM Modi said, “My condolences are with the bereaved families.”
Rawat was speaking to professors and student officers at the famed Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) in Wellington. Singh, the only survivor and a distinguished pilot, works at DSSC as a staff member.
According to the air force, an investigation into the reason of the accident has been ordered. The chopper was on its way to DSSC in Wellington from Sulur airbase. The CDS and his wife had travelled on an Embraer jet from the IAF’s VVIP communication squadron from New Delhi to Sulur.
After serving as army commander for a full three-year tenure, Rawat became India’s first CDS on December 31, 2019. He was the country’s longest-serving four-star general in military history. Rawat was in charge of the military’s theaterisation initiative, which aimed to improve the military’s effectiveness and reshape future operations.
Rawat was commissioned into the army in December 1978 after graduating from the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, where he was awarded the coveted Sword of Honour for outstanding performance. In the 5/11 Gorkha Rifles, he was commissioned.